My hometown, Birmingham, Alabama, was once hailed “The Magic City” for its nearly incomparable rapid industrial growth, but in 2021, the word magic isn’t the first word I’d use to describe the consequences of environmental exploitation present within Birmingham neighborhoods.
We’ve not only earned the name “The Magic City” but also “Pittsburgh of the South,” and since the title’s fruition over a hundred years ago, corporate giants have done an impressive job of holding Birmingham to that name with Jefferson County’s ozone layer state remaining at a resolute grade F, similarly seen in Allegheny County, Pittsburgh.
As smog clouded our skyline, one more honorable name was tacked onto Birmingham’s reputation, “Smoke City.” With each cloud of smoke, pollution further subjugates Birmingham and Alabama in its entirety to its oppressive regime. A cloud of particulate matter affixes itself to cars and paints houses black, cancer, like a parasite, disproportionately deteriorates the roots and branches of family trees, and the state of tomatoes and strawberries that grow in people’s backyards is questioned. This is the reality of Birmingham. This is the reality of Alabama.
If the current global trend of increased emissions continues, Alabama will grow at least 5 degrees to as much as 11 degrees hotter by 2100.¹ Our temperatures are not only increasing, but we face a greater risk of more intense hurricanes that threaten Alabama’s stability and livelihood.² Whether it be that air pollution steals 350,000 lives per year in America³ or that global carbon emissions have skyrocketed by nearly 600%⁴, the world demands for a solution; Alabama demands for a solution. We’re dependent upon one. One like the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act.
The Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act places a fee, which would gradually increase over the years on a predictable schedule, on fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and gas. As time passes, companies’ carbon pollution will decline as they seek for cheaper and cleaner alternatives. The fees collected from energy companies would then be apportioned to the American people every month as well as the program administrative costs; the government does not retain any money received from the carbon fee. The carbon dividend would help protect and support low and middle class Americans in the energy transition. Through the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act, 4.5 million lives will be saved over a course of 50 years because of clean air.³
While some argue that legislation pertaining to the environment is a threat to the economy, by placing a border caborn adjustment fee on imported goods and a refund for exported goods, the Energy Innovation act protects the US workforce and manufacturers. Under this legislation not only are the American people receiving a carbon dividend, but clean energy jobs are created as energy companies and other industries invest in cheaper and cleaner options. Innovation is incentivized and businesses wouldn’t have to adjust their practices to a fluctuating price of carbon since its increase is steady and gradual.³ By regulating industries and incentivizing carbon control, the economy, workforce, and American innovation will thrive. Alabama will see benefits and improvements.
I hope you will urge your legislators to pass the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act because the climate crisis demands for action to be taken now, and the burden of the current degradation of the environment falls on low-income communities and communities of color. Air pollution and its detrimental effects is not a tale of the future but of the present, and we need a solution. Fast.
Check out the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act website for more information as well as Citizens Climate Lobby and the H.R.2307 summary:
Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act: https://energyinnovationact.org/how-it-works/
Citizens Climate Lobby: https://citizensclimatelobby.org/price-on-carbon/
HR2307 Summary: https://www.congress.gov/bill/117th-congress/house-bill/2307
¹ NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information: State Climate Summaries (2019) – Alabama;
² U.S. Global Change Research Program, Fourth National Climate Assessment;
³ Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act, “How It Works” (2021);
⁴ Climate & Capitalism, “Earth is Burning” (2020);